Defending the crown! Louisiana State University athlete Angel Reese pushed back after Dr. Jill Biden suggested the NCAA basketball champions shouldn’t be the only team to receive an invitation to the White House.
Reese, 20, and the LSU Tigers defeated the University of Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85 on Sunday, April 2, in the Division I tournament. Following the impressive March Madness match-up, the first lady, 71, hinted that she wanted to extend an invite to the runners-up as well as the winners.
“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House; we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” Biden said at an event in Denver on Monday, April 3, per ESPN. “But, you know, I’m going to tell [President] Joe [Biden] I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game.”
Reese was quick to chime in, sharing a link to the New Jersey native’s quote via Twitter. “🤣🤣🤣 A JOKE,” she wrote on Monday.
Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith showed his support for Reese and the Tigers. “Hey @Reese10Angel, I mean absolutely zero disrespect to the First Lady, but you are 1000% correct,” he tweeted. “That is a bad suggestion. Runner-ups don’t get invited to the White House. Why are we trying to change it now? I completely agree with you, Angel.”
NCAA basketball champs have been visiting the White House for decades, but the offer doesn’t typically include both teams who competed in the finals. Following the University of Connecticut men’s basketball victory against San Diego State University on Monday — the fifth in the franchise’s history — the president, 80, expressed his excitement for meeting with the college athletes.
“Congrats to @LSUwbkb who demonstrated excellence on and off the court. They showed us what it looks like to win with an unrelenting belief in themselves. And they did it in one of the most-watched women’s sports games in US history,” he tweeted on Tuesday, April 4, without mentioning the Iowa team. “We can all learn a lot from watching these champions compete — and I look forward to welcoming them at each of their White House visits.”
The first lady’s press secretary, Vanessa Valdivia, clarified on Tuesday that Jill’s comments “were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes” as Reese and NCAA fans got riled up. “She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win at the White House,” the staffer tweeted.
Reese previously sparked controversy for taunting Iowa athlete Caitlin Clark by pointing to her ring finger during Sunday’s game. She later poked fun at Clark, 21, who had waved a hand in front of her own face while matched up against Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith in the Elite Eight week of March Madness.
The Maryland native was slammed online, with several viewers calling her out for unsportsmanlike behavior. Clark, however, didn’t receive the same level of criticism for making the same gestures weeks prior, sparking a debate about racial inequality in sports.
“All year I was critiqued about who I was. I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit in the box that you all want me to be in. I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. You told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing,” Reese said during a post-game press conference on Sunday amid the backlash. “So this is for the girls that look like me, that want to speak up on what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you. It was bigger than me tonight. I’m happy. I felt I helped grow women’s basketball.”
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